This book will be available from September 15th 2017.

Maternity images are prevalent in Africa wherever visual arts are valued, from prehistoric rockart sites, ancient Egypt, and Ethiopian Christianity to contemporary forms. Found in varied materials – prevalent wood, terra cotta and metal sculpture, also in ivory, stone, gold-leaf, beadwork, and painted – images mothers and children are used by everyone, from commoners to kings.

This art enlivens virtually every type of object, especially altars and shrines, situated at the juncture of this world and the supernatural. Defining maternity as simultaneously biological and cultural, the author moves from obvious notions of fertility, nurture and increase to the importance of maternity in thought, ritual action and worldview, when community transformation and regeneration are paramount. Motherhood as concept and metaphor embodies a rich complex of ideas vital in the perpetuation of human society.

Art invoking this archetypal theme have been used as instruments in a ‘politics of maternity’ from earliest times until the present. Idealizing and glorifying maternity for much of history, recent arts see forms of protest when women and children are at risk.